Over the summer there was a growing sense that the beautiful mountains that surround our beloved lake, and are the familiar trails I began climbing as a five-year-old and gradually reached out, through my teen-age years, and my adult years from my thirties to my 75th year, from nearby Whittier and Green Mountain, on to Chocorua's Piper Trail, and Weetamoo and the Brook Trial, to Washington's Huntington Ravine, and Tuckerman's Ravine, and Lion's Head and Crawford's Path and Ammonoosuc's Ravine, expanding into the full forty-six 4,000-footers in New Hampshire and the twelve of Maine and the seven of Vermont, were a kind of true "home to my heart." Their lovely, lonely trails beckoned me, and challenged me, and gave me "the far view" from so many spectacular vantage points. They gave me hours to think - about deep things of the world: theology, Jesus and His long journey, and human relationships and human history.
Some of the earliest walks were with my father - though the journey was not joy for him. Gradually I became the elder, the leader and guide, taking my growing children to the high places. And there, off an on, through several adult decades, long climbs with my brother the theologian, and our opportunity to say, on the trail, what we really thought about so much. And, for the last decades an occasional grown son or daughter. But, to the end, a faithful, eager dog- Schnitzel or Samson, succeeding Schmanzus, to Wonalancet, handsome, shepherding sheltie who walked many miles with me - as long as he could. Probably several times, saving my life.
So much of that was orchestrated, permitted, and encouraged by my Molly, who had climbed with me those few years before five children came and needed her at home.
The last climb, at 75 - inspired and encouraged by Tamsie, who was elsewhere on the mountain - took far too long, all day. And I knew it was the last high climb.
Somehow the lake was always part of those high ascents: our quiet place of sending and return, with memories of my parents, and my childhood, with sisters Betsy and Louise, and brother Lee.
My mother gave us a kind of theology of the maternal world, copying on a birchbark on the cupboard door behind her head at out gathering table, all those years of us growing. It was the poet, John Greenleaf Whittier's view of that whole sacred region, he called "The Lakeside."
"The shadows 'round the inland sea,
are deepening into night,
Slow, up the slopes of Ossipee,
they chase the lessening light.
Tired of the day's blinding heat,
I rest my languid eye.
Lake of the hills, where, cool and sweet,
thy sunset waters lie."
That sense, laid the groundwork and the deep-felt spirit of that mystic and mysterious place of beloved water, growing from New Hampshire sand beaches, up into the trails that headed for the sky. On those high places, and in the soft sands at sunset, we, like Whittier, "saw the face of God" and felt Him near, and knew we were in His world.
It was all foundational for me. And, for my children. And now their children.
So, when I must leave, at summer's end, there are always tears in my heart, for I know this was the great treasure given me, that became part of my soul.
This year, our once-small church, by its ministers and people and Jesus' heart and spirit life, and its natural serving ministry in a region of so many broken lives, seems somehow more, my own "home church" that I miss, like family, and that I pray, each fall, will be my place of return.
And yet, on a clear September day, out of the hills we drove, toward the sea, and old Portsmouth - town where I grew up and where Molly has determined we both shall lie in a small family plot in "The Proprietor's Cemetery," going back to the 1600's, where my father and mother and grandmother precede us. From there we took the C & J bus to Boston Logan Airport to lift later that day toward the westward sun, and the home God also gave us, where our children grew and five out of the six still live, and where return to the late chapter of our life in late-80's people, in a community called "covenant living" where we are bound by faith and committed to carers who shelter and feed us, and we from favorite chairs in our 800 sq ft apartment with a balcony, look into a courtyard of fountain and water with a lovely linden tree outside our window.
It's hard to come back, and yet we are grateful to be here - because of the simple size, and the few things. But also we rest here, as so many help us. And, we watch the people - old like ourselves - living often heroically, these years. Beloved names are spoken quietly in the hallway, of sweet people, dear people, who have "gone home," while we've been away. Impish, smiling Gee-Gee, while others have fallen and are under total care.
Molly moves about from one to another, greeting and touching them, our world that God has given us, and eat and talk and say "love" to each other.
We have a church here, which we served 32 exciting years, and we have still, a ministry here, of forgiveness and reconciliation. Others carry the great load, but we help with retreats, and see many who seek us out.
Is this home? Of course it is. Not the same as "Ossipee, my Ossipee, our mountain home that gave us birth..." But our home, near doctors, and hospitals, and a thousand friends who care.
They are all God-given, and He fills this place which we haunt, with His presence, and His love. And wonderfully - He gives us each other. The church we love here, grows again, and is in good hands. And all is set to help us have peace, and great joy.
Arthur A Rouner, Jr -
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ARTHUR ROUNER MINISTRIES